Venice Commission: Constitution must be changed by parliament

Thomas Markert, Secretary of the Venice Commission, is adamant that decisions based on the results of a referendum cannot replace a decision of a majority in the Verkhovna Rada regarding changes to the Constitution. Mr Markert is presently in Ukraine as part of a Venice Commission delegation.

UNIAN reports that Mr Markert told reporters that the recently passed Law on National Referendums was being actively discussed in Ukraine, and that the question was also of great concern to the Venice Commission. He added that the Venice Commission has on a number of occasions stressed the need for constitutional reform to be based on broad consensus. “It is therefore extremely important that such decisions be passed by a majority of the Verkhovna Rada”.

It should be stressed that the majority required by the present Constitution for changes to that Main Law is a “constitutional majority”, i.e. 300 votes. Many analysts believe that one of the reasons that the Law on National Referendums was pushed through on 6 November, despite quite flagrant infringements of the parliamentary regulations, was the fact that the Party of the Regions was unlikely to muster such a majority.

The reasons for concern over this extremely dangerous law are outlined in Bypassing the Constitution and the links below. Put most succinctly, questions would be posed, in any number with the referendum administered by those in power without any safeguards ensuring that both sides of each issue had equal opportunity to put forward their arguments. The procedure for holding the referendum and vote count is at least as easy to fiddle as that used during the October parliamentary elections. The results of this referendum would be binding, and have, indeed, bypassed political parties, parliament and Ukraine’s current Constitution.

Thomas Markert’s words reported by UNIAN, comments in italic – H Coynash

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